Hurray. You have made it to China with your work visa in hand. However now, as per your visa conditions, you need a standard medical check. I had mine done the day after arriving in Xi’an and it was crazy. Now I hadn’t had the easiest 24 hours prior to this and I was still suffering from culture shock. I had 2 English speaking Chinese women on hand and yet I still was overwhelmed and lost in the situation. I had no idea what to expect going into the medical check and I think perhaps I could have been better prepared (mentally and physically) if I had known.

Standard Medical Check

You can’t eat or drink anything except water prior to your check. I assumed the latter part as I was simply told no eating or drinking but it was 35c throughout the night and my air con wasn’t working. Water was pretty essential to avoiding dehydration. I arrived and the two Chinese girls I was with who have been helping me took care of the first part. This simply involved submitting a document (it could be more to it then that but I have yet to understand what anyone says when speaking Chinese). I actually had to point out that I did have asthma as they’d filled it out without asking and had assumed I was in perfect health. You need 10 passport sized photos too. I kept checking they really meant 10 photos. I have no idea why they needed quite so many copies but there you have it. Maybe it’s just in case they lose 9 copies?

Starting Simple

The check includes a whole array of tests. First up is the blood test. This is pretty standard. There is a window with a slot. Almost like you would see in a post office or bank. The slot it is big enough though for you to put your arm through and rest it on a pillow. They then take your blood and that’s the first step over. Don’t be fooled though. You are not finished. Next is a urine test. This is where, for me, it started to go downhill.

Xi'an by night

Urine Stress

You are given a little plastic cup and a little tube and sent to the toilets to make your contribution. The problem is they are Chinese style toilets. I had not yet successfully used a Chinese style toilet. I had tried to at the airport when I arrived but despite needing to go I couldn’t bring myself to begin the flow whilst squatting. It just didn’t feel natural. I had ended up holding it another 40 minutes until I arrived at my apartment. The other issue is Xi’an is hot in the summer. I was thirsty and not in the least bit in need of the toilet. I really tried but after 5 minutes or so I had to come out and admit my troubles.

It was decided I would get some water from the canteen on the second floor and do the other tests first. I drank so much water. There was a water cooler with those standard water cooler sized cups and I was gulping it down cup after cup. We then did the other medical tests and then went back to canteen so I could gulp down a few more gallons. I felt awful as we just sat there waiting. It was embarrassing that I couldn’t pee. It’s not exactly rocket science.

Prepare to Pee

This is the physical preparation you may wish to consider to make your medical check run a little smoother. It sounds ridiculous but try and get some practice in with Chinese style toilets. That way you won’t get bladder shy when you do need to go on cue. The other thing you can do if you think you may have trouble is to drink the gallons of water before you go and avoid going to the toilet when you wake up. This will save time and embarrassment.

I did eventually manage to squeeze out enough for the urine test and I also realised why Jojo had advised buying some tissues to keep in my bag. Chinese toilets do not provide toilet paper. At least this one did not. I was very lucky to have taken the advice and had a pack of tissues on hand. I also had my hand sanitizer which is another must when travelling in China.

Xi'an at night

Whirlwind checks

Whilst we waited for my bladder to work we completed all the other checks which take place on the third floor. This included heart rate, blood pressure, ultrasound and x-ray. Do you see what I mean by thorough now? I have never had an ultra sound or heart rate check done before. It was really intimidating to lie on a bed in a room with someone who has no English as she motions for you to pull your top and bra up to your next. This was for the heart rate check. There are cuffs that go around both ankles and wrists and then the sticky things you see in hospital dramas which stick to your chest. This is ironically when my heart rate started to go up.

Next is the ultrasound. This is a pretty straight forward one actually. I simply laid down with my top above my stomach and the nurse motioned when she wanted me to lay on my side.She covered me in the gel though, yet was rather frugal with the tissue she handed me to wipe it off. I left there and suddenly was told to take off my bra for an x-ray. Your chest is x-rayed so necklaces need to come off too. After putting my bra back on I had the last check. This was height, weight and blood pressure. This was simpler and a lot more familiar. It also didn’t mean having to remove or move aside any clothing.

Xi'an restaurant

I deserved a meal out that evening with new friends!

Emotional Turmoil

I felt very exposed and vulnerable throughout these checks. The whole affair is very business like as you go room to room and are in and out very efficiently. This made me feel more on edge though as I felt like a subject on a factory line. Most of the emotions I had were rooted in the fact that I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t understand anything that was being said and therefore I was a bit bewildered and very overwhelmed. I was still suffering with culture shock and this just added to that.


Have you ever required a medical check abroad? What was your experience like?